MPSF Quarterfinals: BYU at Long Beach State

Rob Neilson and the Cougars will play at Long Beach State in the first round of the MPSF Tournament. (Photo by Mark Philbrick/BYU Photo)

COUGARS TO PLAY AT LONG BEACH FOR MPSF QUARTERFINALS

With the regular season in the books, the Cougars will head to Long Beach State to play the 49ers in a quarterfinal match of the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation tournament, Saturday, April 22 in the Walter Pyramid. BYU concluded the regular season at 18-8 overall and 14-8 in the MPSF while Long Beach finished 21-9 overall and 14-8 in league play.

"It's do or die," BYU coach Tom Peterson said. "The Fieldhouse was good for us this season but playing on the road hasn't been. We need to get back on track. We ended the season playing two tough teams and we didn't play good enough to win. We have the ability to rise to the occasion so we think we have a shot at it. We cannot let anything bother us. We just need to play our game."

The Cougars and 49ers finished the regular season going in different directions. BYU dropped its last four matches while Long Beach won its last four to tie the Cougars for fourth in the MPSF. Both teams' streaks started when the 49ers defeated BYU twice in Long Beach, April 6 and 7.

The 49ers currently own a 15-13 advantage in the league series, including an 8-5 edge in Long Beach.The Cougars have won the last three postseason meetings between the schools, including the 2004 NCAA and MPSF Tournament Championship matches and the 1999 NCAA Championship match. Prior to those matches, Long Beach was 2-0 against BYU in postseason play, earning victories in the 1994 and 1998 MPSF tournaments.

Peterson said his team needs to stay in system to defeat Long Beach.

"We have to be able to serve and serve receive with them," he said. "They have a few guys that can really blast the ball on the serve. We have the arms offensively to be good so if we can pass well, we'll be okay."

Robert Tarr leads Long Beach by averaging 4.98 kills per game and Duncan Budinger is second, averaging 3.75 kills. Tarr and Tyler Hildebrand were first-team All-Americans last season while Budinger was a second-team All-American in 2005.

Yosleyder Cala leads BYU by averaging 3.95 kills per game and Ivan Perez is second at 3.73. Russell Holmes has a team-best .459 hitting percentage and leads the Cougars in blocks per game at 1.46.

The winner of the match will advance to the MPSF semifinals in Irvine, Calif. and play No. 1 seed UC Irvine.

MATCH NOTES

MPSF QUARTERFINALS: NO. 5 BYU (18-8, 14-8 MPSF) at NO. 3 LONG BEACH STATE (21-9, 14-8 MPSF)

Saturday, April 22, 2006 - 7 p.m. PT

The Walter Pyramid (5,000) - Long Beach, California

Coaches: BYU, Tom Peterson (at BYU: 90-29 in fourth year, career: 342-159)

Long Beach, Alan Knipe (at Long Beach: 119-64 in sixth year, career: same)

Series: Long Beach leads 15-13, including two wins in Long Beach this season

TV: None

Radio: Visit www.longbeachstate.com to access a live broadcasts

LAST MATCHES - BYU vs. Hawai`i

BYU dropped two matches to Hawai`i, April 14 and 15, and is now 18-8 overall and 14-8 in the MPSF heading into the postseason conference tournament. The Cougars ran into the perfect storm in the first match as Hawai`i was on fire and BYU struggled. The match ended with the Warriors winning 3-0 (30-14, 30-21, 30-21). Russell Holmes had six kills and three blocks and hit .500. Hawai`i had three players record double-digit kill totals, led by Jose Delgado, who had 14. The Cougars were much improved Saturday, taking game one, 30-27, before dropping the next two. BYU won game four, 30-26, but then dropped the fifth, 15-12. The Cougars out-hit the Warriors .321 to .286 and also had more digs, 50-40. Yosleyder Cala had 21 kills, nine digs and six aces to lead BYU.

THE POLLS

BYU fell to No. 5 in the CSTV/AVCA Division I-II Men's Coaches Top 15 Poll after back-to-back losses to No. 2 Hawai`i. The Cougars were previously No. 4 and prior to that, held the second spot in the AVCA poll four-consecutive weeks. Prior to the No. 2 ranking, BYU held the top spot for four-straight weeks, starting Feb. 13 after two wins over USC, but fell to second after two five-game losses to current No. 1 UC Irvine.

A LOOK AT LONG BEACH

Long Beach State has won its last four matches and is 21-9 overall and 14-8 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation. The 49ers are tied with BYU at fourth in the MPSF but own the tie breaker, having won the two matches between the teams this season. Long Beach's win streak started with two wins over the Cougars and then defeated Pacific and Stanford to clinch the fourth seed in the postseason tournament. Robert Tarr leads Long Beach by averaging 4.98 kills per game and Duncan Budinger is second, averaging 3.75 kills. Tarr and Tyler Hildebrand were first-team All-Americans last season while Budinger was a second-team All-American in 2005.

LAST TIME VS. LONG BEACH

BYU dropped two matches to Long Beach State earlier this season on April 6 and 7. The Cougars jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first match with 31-29 and 30-26 wins in games one and two. BYU then went flat, falling 30-26 and 30-22, in games three and four. The Cougars led 8-7 in game five but then fell behind 11-9 and could not recover as the 49ers went on to win 15-13. Yosleyder Cala had 19 kills and five blocks while Russell Holmes had 11 kills and nine blocks. BYU won game one 31-29 the second night but then Long Beach came back and won the next three games to win 3-1. Victor Batista led the Cougars with 14 kills and five blocks.

SERIES NOTES VS. LONG BEACH

The Cougars and 49ers will meet for the 29th time in the history of the series when they square off in the MPSF Tournament quarterfinals in The Walter Pyramid. Long Beach leads the series, 15-13 and owns an 8-5 advantage at home. The teams split two matches in Provo last season but the Cougars defeated the 49ers four times in 2004, including wins in the MPSF championship match and the NCAA championship match. Those four wins capped a seven-match win streak for BYU over Long Beach. The 49ers won seven of the first eight meetings in the series.

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